This morning, I wrote brief letters to some friends who each face intense heartbreak. My own troubles are light in comparison with theirs. I was going to write about hardship, forgiveness, and grace today, but as I reread the first two lines of this post, I see that I am rich with something that makes all our troubles bearable: friends.
I have close friends from every state in which I have lived. I have strong relationships with people that even if we have not spoken recently, they could be called upon for advice, prayer requests, or simple uplifting. For those of you who read this with whom I have not been in contact regularly, I sincerely apologize. Please note this does not mean you are far from my heart.
I have a close friend from the West that I have known since we were first-graders. In my head, I still visualize her as a double pony-tailed wispy blonde-haired little sprite. She is now a chicly coiffed professional and a single-mother. We don’t speak often, but when we do, we pick up as though we saw each other yesterday. My college girlfriend lives in the deepest South and has been a rock for get-real advice and for sheltering me at my worst and lowest moment. She has been a model for true Christianity in respect to her being able to love me when she could not understand how much in denial I was about the problems in first marriage. There is another lady friend in the Northeast, whom I also met in college, but we bonded some time after graduation. I sheltered her when her husband was serving overseas and she needed help with her son, who struggled with autism. What I learned from her was that people who are worried sick about their children can withdraw from a more public life as a protective measure; I was able to recognize it in myself when it started happening to me. We speak often. We are usually going through the same problem at the same time.
There is a couple that resided with me as neighbors in one state, and then after their move to the Midwest, my now-ex-husband and I ended up relocating an hour away from them. I will never forget hiding out from tornadoes in their basement, cooking together, or making stained glass art with my girlfriend. Her husband has always doted on my daughter (and now sends goodies to my son since his birth after we moved), told me funny stories, and talked to me as a real person. He never once ignored me or disregarded my opinion due to my gender (some men have a real talent for not “seeing” their friends’ wives.) He is a brother. When they visited here this summer, my husband and I were not quite ourselves. I have felt bothered by this ever since, but I think, given the history of their ceaseless love and support, that they understand families have ups and downs. They will love me as best they can from afar. I cherish this. Another friend from that same area was always a mentor for motherhood. She helped me care for my then-baby-daughter, guided me spiritually, and gave honest, but gentle childrearing feedback. We spoke recently when I needed parenting advice, which she gave me willingly and lovingly. Her influence on my daughter still runs strong today.
In my last state of residence, I had the unique experience of bonding with a Bible study women’s group, who supported me through separation and divorce. I also had good neighbors on my street with whom I still share great rapport (although I owe one of them a phone call before he shoots me). These neighbors, and my sister, bonded as a group. We still circulate support for each other almost in the form of a rally. Their obstacles, their hardships have made each of us more aware of our impact on others, how to support without judgment, how to live when under public scrutiny, and when I am with them, I feel so much love that I think nothing gets better than this. They have known me specifically through the birth of my son, the end of my first marriage, and witnessed the romance with my current husband. They gladly celebrated our remarriage. Last year, when we were up to my ears in legal troubles, they were incredibly positive and uplifting.
I tell my daughter that I am so rich. I may have lost my former homes or any financial assets I could have had, and sometimes my financial outlook is really scary, but I have never had more love. My own husband, who began as a friend himself, and was part of my family long before we ever married, has his own story, his own deep and abiding love despite the fact that I am over-sensitive, analytical to a fault, afraid of conflict, and exhausted from the responsibility of motherhood (which makes my first three flaws worse). He would rather blame himself than allow me to take the heat, even when I clearly deserve the blame.
I love you all. Don’t give up on me. I think of each of you daily. I hope I can honor you the way you have honored me with your loyalty. You all make living, not just bearable and worthwhile, but beautiful and joyful.